The first contactless payment was a key fob that you could use to pay for gas in 1997. Today, contactless payments come in many forms, including paying for groceries by waving your smartphone or tapping your credit card on a reader. Businesses need to keep up as consumers demand more ways to pay and safer contactless checkout methods.
Contactless payments eliminate any physical contact between a customer’s payment method and a business’s point-of-sale system. With contactless payment, no one needs to handle cash, swipe credit cards, insert chips or touch payment keypads to process a sale. Instead, consumers can use their contactless credit or debit cards, smartphones or even smartwatches to check out.
Contactless credit cards and mobile payments use near-field communication (NFC) to connect with the checkout terminal. These devices need to be close — typically no more than a few centimeters apart — to process a secure payment. Simply hover a compatible card or payment-enabled device over the reader for a few seconds until the terminal acknowledges the transaction, often with a clarifying beep.
Why should I offer contactless payments?
As more consumers are leaning towards contactless payments, here’s how it can help your business:
Safer and cleaner. Without having to exchange cash or cards at checkout, contactless payments limit person-to-person interaction. 82% of respondents in a Mastercard global consumer study viewed contactless payments as the cleaner way to pay.
More secure. Contactless credit cards are safer than traditional magnetic-stripe cards because it generates a unique token to complete your purchase, which protects the card’s actual payment information.
More efficient. Contactless payments are up to 10 times quicker than other in-person payment methods, according to Mastercard, helping customers move through lines quicker. And faster transaction times lower the probability of abandoned sales.
More convenient. Mobile payments mean fewer shoppers fumbling for wallets. And since the credit card never leaves your customer’s hands, no more forgotten cards at the store.
Are contactless payments safe?
Contactless payments are safer than the swiping of a magnetic stripe credit card. Traditional credit cards store your personal data in the magnetic stripe, making it easier for criminals to copy. On the other hand, the contactless chip card produces a one-time code or “token” each time you pay and doesn’t transmit your name, billing address or card’s security code.
If your card is ever stolen, someone else could easily make a purchase since it doesn’t require a PIN or signature. Fortunately, many card issuers and payment processors implement a limit per transaction before you need to insert the EMV chip during checkout. For example, payment processor Square accepts contactless credit card payments up to $100 before requiring additional authentication.
Mobile payments add an extra layer of security. Contactless payments on devices require user verification by entering a PIN or biometric authentication, such as a thumbprint or facial recognition.
How do I set up contactless payments for my business?
Merchants will need an NFC-enabled payment processor to accept contactless credit cards. But you’ll also want a processing platform that takes mobile wallets, such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. Here’s how to get started:
Review your existing equipment. If you have an older terminal, you’ll need to upgrade your device to accept contactless payments.
Consider your point-of-sale software. Make sure your point-of-sale (POS) system can handle the new contactless coding requirements. If you need to upgrade your entire system, consider a payment platform that offers both software and hardware solutions.
Let your customers know that you support contactless. Many businesses post signs at checkout showing what payments they accept. Make sure you display the contactless symbol, so consumers know they have the option.
More consumers and businesses have expressed an interest in contactless payments because of the ongoing pandemic. People want to get in and out of stores fast — without touching as many public surfaces as possible. Since COVID-19 began, about one-third of consumers have tried contactless payments, according to RTi Research. Many shoppers view contactless payments as cleaner and safer than handling cash and intend on continuing to use it post-pandemic.
With contactless payments, the checkout process is expedited and minimizes human contact. Both employees and consumers can lessen their risk when cash and cards are not exchanged. And portable contactless readers can be set up around the store to help promote social distancing and prevent people from clustering in lines.
Contactless payment is probably going to stick around. Choosing the right contactless processor can help your business keep up with consumers’ preferred method of payment. Explore a few different payment processors to find one that fits your needs.
Frequently asked questions
It depends on your payment processor and your credit card. For example, although Mastercard’s cards with EMV mode can authorize transactions offline, Square, a payment processor, requires an Internet connection to use contactless payments.
If your terminal has a wave-like symbol, similar to the Wifi symbol, you can accept contactless payments.
EMV chips are physically inserted into a payment terminal, while contactless payments use near-field communication (NFC) and don’t require touching the reader.
Kimberly Ellis is a writer at Finder. She hails from New York City with a BA from Queens College and a New York State teaching certificate. After teaching in both public and private schools, Kimberly decided to take the world by storm and dive into the media industry — where she covers everything from home loans and investing to K–12 education and shopping. She’s also an aspiring polyglot, always in a book and forever on the hunt for the perfect classic red lipstick.
How likely would you be to recommend finder to a friend or colleague?
Very UnlikelyExtremely Likely
Thank you for your feedback.
Our goal is to create the best possible product, and your thoughts, ideas and suggestions play a major role in helping us identify opportunities to improve.
finder.com is an independent comparison platform and information service that aims to provide you with the tools you need to make better decisions. While we are independent, the offers that appear on this site are from companies from which finder.com receives compensation. We may receive compensation from our partners for placement of their products or services. We may also receive compensation if you click on certain links posted on our site. While compensation arrangements may affect the order, position or placement of product information, it doesn't influence our assessment of those products. Please don't interpret the order in which products appear on our Site as any endorsement or recommendation from us. finder.com compares a wide range of products, providers and services but we don't provide information on all available products, providers or services. Please appreciate that there may be other options available to you than the products, providers or services covered by our service.